Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Humpday Hint: What's With Those Cobwebs?

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

In late fall and early winter, we’re more likely to notice cobwebs hanging about in the corners of our living spaces. What are they, how do they get there, and what should we do to get rid of them and prevent more from forming?

A “cob” is an Old English word for “spider,” so a cobweb is a web produced by a spider. Most spiders can create a form of silk in their bodies, which they use to spin traps to catch their insect food. They make some of the silk sticky so that insects blundering into the web are caught just like on fly paper. Unfortunately, when the spider abandons the web or dies, the sticky strands persist, and collect dust, pollen and dander. That’s why the cobwebs we dislike in our homes often look shaggy. That’s not how the spider made them, it’s a reflection of the particulate nature of the air inside our houses.

Spiders can be inside human structures at any time of year, but they seem to come in most frequently in late fall and early winter, as the outdoors weather becomes colder. You probably want to keep them out, and the way to prevent their sharing your home is the same as how to get rid of cobwebs- regular dusting. Nearly invisible webs may be being constructed in the corners without your notice.

There is more danger in dusting away spiderwebs from standing on wobbly chairs than there is from being bitten by the spider, if it is still in residence, which is unlikely in a cobweb. Here are some safe ways to remove cobwebs from the corners of rooms:

  • Use the extension nozzle on your vacuum cleaner.
  • Use a long-handled soft duster and shake it out outdoors frequently.
  • Rubber band a soft cloth over the bristles of a broom and sweep up in the corners.
  • Stick an old sock over the end of a yardstick and swipe the corners.

Remember that spiders and their webs can also hide in drapes and other fabrics. Use the vacuum cleaner attachments to get rid of most of the web, and then use a lint roller to get off the stickiest strands. Launder the curtains if possible to remove any debris.

And since the fuzzy look of cobwebs is due to dust in the air, be sure that you keep your environment as dust-free as possible. Cover furniture in the corners of rooms with an old towel when you dust overhead, and then launder the towel. Vacuum immediately after dusting to remove displaced dust from the floors. Be sure to dust window blinds, underneath and behind large items of furniture, the blades of ceiling fans and around heat/air conditioning vents. These areas collect and spread dust which gets caught in spider webs.

To keep spiders from entering your home, seal cracks carefully. Pay special attention to sealing around door and window frames. Be sure vent openings are covered with insect screens.

Don’t bring spiders into your home when you move outdoor potted plants in for the winter. Carefully inspect foliage before you bring the pots inside.

Spiders do not like certain smells, so you might consider some “aromatherapy” to prevent their return. Spray corners that spiders seem to want to build their webs in with a mixture of vinegar and water. You can also try essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus or lemon sprayed or dabbed on cotton balls and left to scent the air.

Editor's Note: If you have pets, use caution with chemicals like essential oils. Check with your veterinarian to ensure you are using substances that are safe for your furry/feathery/scaly friends in your home.

For Additional Reading

Cobwebs and how they form: The Secret Behind the Creation of Cobwebs

More ways to get rid of spiders and their webs: Get Rid of Spider Webs

Why you might not want to get rid of all cobwebs: The Joys of Cobwebs

Image credit: "Lucchetto", George Hodan,

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